COVID-19 Bulletin: January 29

January 29, 2021 • Posted in COVID-19, News

Good Afternoon,

More news relevant to the plastics industry:

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Supply

  • Oil prices were mixed in mid-day trading today, with the WTI down 0.4% at $52.11/bbl and Brent up 0.4% at $55.92/bbl. Natural gas was down 1.9% at $2.61/MMBtu.
  • Midstream companies managing the nation’s 3 million miles of natural gas pipelines are preparing for a possible shift to hydrogen transportation as sustainability pressures threaten the natural gas industry.
  • The newly formed Canada Plastics Pact brings together waste management companies, government institutions and NGOs to collaborate on ambitious 2025 plastic-waste reduction goals.
  • The U.S. administration is pausing publication of a rule that would prohibit large American banks from denying lending to oil and gas companies.

Supply Chain

  • Love’s Travel Stops will add 50 locations and more than 3,000 truck parking spots and as many new jobs in 2021 to serve the growing trucking industry.
  • Walmart is expanding its newly implemented local fulfillment centers, which will bring automated picking and packing for delivery or in-store pickup to dozens more locations.
  • San Jose robotics company Fetch is introducing another machine to the market to replace forklifts with robots, although the company is expected to struggle against the much better-known Kiva Systems from Amazon.
  • For the first time, most North American orders for robots did not go to the automotive industry as the pandemic accelerated automation trends throughout industries.
  • Logistics conditions remain strained, with trucking demand exceeding availability, continuing congestion at ports, and backlogs at warehousing and packaging facilities due in part to operating challenges related to the pandemic. Shipping containers are in short supply, with demurrage charges rising. Clients are advised to provide expanded lead times on orders to help ensure delivery dates. 

Markets

  • COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S. jumped by 4,000 yesterday, with 168,420 new cases reported.
  • Congestion at California ports worsened, with 38 ships awaiting berth space and some waiting vessels assigned to drift zones due to a lack of anchorage space.
  • The U.S. West has pushed down coronavirus cases by 43% in the past two weeks, outpacing all other regions.
  • COVID-19 cases are rebounding in Alabama two weeks after the Crimson Tide football team won the national championship and street parties ensued.
  • California reported its second-highest one-day COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, while the rate of new infections and hospitalizations continues to drop.
  • Kentucky recorded 69 COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, a record.
  • South Carolina reported the first confirmed U.S. patients infected with a highly infectious strain of COVID-19 discovered in South Africa.
  • New York state authorities may have undercounted COVID-19 fatalities at nursing homes by as much as 50%.
  • It is unlikely that people getting vaccinated for COVID-19 will be able to choose which vaccine they get.
  • Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis is in talks to help other companies produce COVID-19 vaccines, with an agreement expected within the coming days.
  • A handful of Walmart stores in Texas have been approved to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
  • A large U.K. clinical study shows the new Novavax COVID-19 vaccine is 89% effective. However, data shows it is less effective against the more virulent strain from South Africa.
  • Pfizer says the U.K. and South African COVID-19 variants had only small impacts on the effectiveness of antibodies generated by the company’s vaccine.
  • Vaccine sites are increasingly calling on volunteers to help with directing traffic, checking in patients, entering data into medical records and observing patients for adverse reactions. Meanwhile, only nine states are using a $44 million software system developed by the CDC to track vaccinations, with many states calling the system slow and unreliable.
  • A recent report suggests that autoantibodies, misguided antibodies formed when COVID-19 victims battle the virus, may persist for months and trigger the recurring symptoms experienced by many “long-haul” victims.
  • New York City is asking government workers to return to office buildings in May.
  • The White House is reopening the federal healthcare marketplace of the Affordable Care Act, making it easier for Americans to buy health insurance during the pandemic.
  • The U.S. economy contracted 3.5% in 2020 from the previous year — the largest decline since 1946 — as rapid gains in the fourth quarter were not enough to offset major losses in prior months.
  • U.S. rankings took another hit in Berlin-based Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, with corruption and fraud associated with economic stimulus and relief payments prompting the nation’s lowest score since 2012.
  • The pandemic halted a decades-long decline in U.S. cigarette sales as health concerns around e-cigarettes caused some vapers to switch back to cigarettes.
  • More fourth-quarter earnings reports reflect the pandemic’s impact on the economy:
    • While McDonald’s fourth-quarter sales rose in the U.S., the fast-food chain reported declines in several regions under persistent national lockdowns and restrictions, notably Western Europe.
    • American Airlines posted a record $8.9 billion loss last year, while Southwest Airlines posted its first annual loss since 1972 of $3.1 billion. Southwest’s chief executive is warning that 2021 may be no different, depending on the spread of COVID-19.
    • Fourth-quarter revenue at Levi Strauss fell 12% while digital sales increased 34%.
    • Comcast posted a 6.9% gain in fourth-quarter net profit on continued growth in its broadband business.
    • Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. more than doubled net income in the fourth quarter from the year-ago period.
    • Hapag-Lloyd, the first major container line to report preliminary results for 2020, estimates an operating profit of $3 billion, significantly higher than the previous year.
    • Canadian National Railway reported a 17% gain in quarterly profit as higher consumer spending drove increased volumes.
  • General Motors announced plans to phase out traditional internal combustion vehicles by 2035.
  • Ford is producing its iconic Mustang vehicles in China for the first time as the company aims to grow its presence, especially for electric vehicles, in the world’s largest car market.
  • A shortage of computer chips is forcing Ford to idle two shifts at its Chicago assembly plant next week.
  • COVID-19 boosted the golf industry, with rounds played up 37% in 2020 and social distancing concerns and demographic trends likely to perpetuate the sport’s renewed popularity.
  • American Airlines canceled over 230 flights after the FAA grounded most of the fleet of one of its leading regional partners due to an undisclosed inspection issue in its planes.
  • The number of U.S. students who earned college degrees last year stayed flat from the prior year, the first year without growth in a decade.
  • Virus-sniffing dogs were used to identify arriving fans infected by COVID-19 as the Miami Heat welcomed people back to their stadium for the first time in months for last night’s NBA game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Dogs can detect the virus with almost perfect accuracy and may soon be used to screen airport passengers.
  • Nestle is switching products in its Smarties brand to 100% recyclable paper packaging, with an initial rollout scheduled for the U.K. and Ireland by April.

International

  • French officials are considering a third national lockdown that could be imposed as soon as Saturday.
  • New Zealand is mulling tighter travel restrictions after three people tested positive for COVID-19 even after following standard quarantine protocols for inbound passengers.
  • The Czech Republic is again tightening restrictions as Germany and Austria imposed stricter travel requirements for inbound visitors from the country.
  • COVID-19 infections in Africa have risen 50% month-to-month as of Jan. 25, with the highly infectious South African variant of the virus found in four other African nations. Africa will need about 1.5 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines at an estimated cost of $10 billion to $15 billion.
  • A tally of excess fatalities in South Africa compared to a typical year indicates the number of people dying from COVID-19 in the country may have peaked.
  • Mexico reached 155,145 confirmed COVID-19 fatalities yesterday, third-most in the world behind the U.S. and Brazil.
  • Germany, questioning the effectiveness of AstraZeneca/Oxford’s vaccine in people over age 65, is restricting its use to those between age 18 and 64, a move that could perpetuate the European Union’s vaccine shortages.
  • Singapore will compensate people who suffer serious side effects related to COVID-19 vaccines, although only three people have suffered them so far.
  • Just 4.43% of 715,425 vaccinated Israelis became infected with COVID-19 more than one week after receiving a second dose, consistent with Pfizer/BioNTech’s trial results claiming 95% efficacy. Alongside producing shots, Pfizer is building an extensive surveillance network to track and test the vaccine against new virus mutations.
  • The European Union plans to tighten rules on the export of COVID-19 vaccines after a shortfall in deliveries from AstraZeneca/Oxford.
  • Emergency spending during the pandemic has pushed government debt to 98% of global economic output, according to the International Monetary Fund.
  • Low-income economies have sold close to $100 billion of bonds so far in January, using the cash to make up for pandemic-induced budget deficits.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 U.K. workers were on furlough as the nation began its third national lockdown in recent weeks.
  • Kenya entered its first recession in at least two decades in the third quarter of 2020 following significant GDP contractions.
  • At least one-fifth of London’s main shopping thoroughfare will be boarded up at a cost of 50,000 lost retail and hospitality jobs when the nation’s latest lockdown ends.

Our Operations

  • Our 3D Printing business unit has launched a new e-commerce site. Access the new site here.
  • Market Expertise: M. Holland offers a host of resources to clients, prospects and suppliers across nine strategic markets. To arrange a videoconference or meeting with any of our Market Managers, please visit our website.  

Thank you,

M. Holland Company

We will provide further COVID-19 bulletins as circumstances dictate. For all COVID-19 updates and notices, please refer to the M. Holland website.

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